Veloso, Caetano (2008) Verdade Tropical (Tropical Truth), Companhia de Bolso (São Paulo), 515 pp.
The author of this book was born in 1942, Bahia, Brazil. As a singer and composer of Brazilian popular music (MPB), in the beginning of his musical career, Caetano Veloso had been inspired by the Brazilian bossa nova style and by a much valued friend, the Brazilian bossa nova singer Joao Gilberto.Caetano Veloso aimed at consolidating the bossa nova with modern styles like rock music. And together with other singers like Gilberto Gil, their idea was to stimulate reflection and prompt a new national conscience which was shown in their lyrics by criticizing ethical and moral values of the Brazilian culture. This new concept was known as the Tropicalismo and the movement started around thelate sixties, and this is what the book is mostly about..
The book is depicted by the author (p.15) as an attempt to throw light on a creative movement (Tropicalismo)carried out within the Brazilian popular music in the second half of the sixties. The author includes himself amongst other protagonists whose musical goal was to move beyond the lefties. So, by putting in scene a hint of revoltagainst social inequality (involving what he calls as a yet unique and loving people) and by allowing its music a pinch of happy urban reality – what he considers a “fatal” international and globalising reality – the Tropicalismo was meant to unveil the “mysterious isle called Brazil”.
On one hand the book is a biography. Caetano starts mentioning passages of his childhood and adolescence in hishometown Santo Amaro, Bahia, emphasising the companionship of certain friends and also of his interesting sister Maria Betania (whom he describes as a peculiar singer). He then passes through diverse stages of his life such as his first public appearances on television, his first marriage , his later arrest by the Brazilian military regime and his exile in London. On the other hand, exploring musicand cinema as a backdrop, the author addresses real facts and topics which were significant in his life and also significant during the sixties, namely drugs, sexuality and some peculiarities of the military dictatorship in Brazil.
Bizarrely, Caetano Veloso tackles issues like masturbation as well as homosexuality with an effortless flow, engaging the reader candidly and unpretentiously.
Tobe with the book entirely, the Brazilian young readers sometimes might need help from other sources like libraries or even more information perhaps from their parents/grandparents in order to know better about one or other older musician or film makers mentioned in the text. Internet articles can be a clever tool as well; it is even possible to watch some clips or videos with a yet quite goodquality of brightness and colours, in spite of some of them being reedited from old films. As for the non-Brazilian readers, Caetano also left his marks internationally, so it should be of some interest as it is a quite pleasurable informative reading as well.
The plot, as it mentions the word in the title of the book – Verdade (Truth), suggests a clarification. A sometimes prolix text butexcellent in its attempt to draw a most real picture, it provides an opportunity for the more or less informed Brazilian reader to realise the facts that marked the author’s success and antagonisms he went through in his career as a singer/composer. The reader will face curious and striking features like the fact that, by the time one of his songs were topping the music charts in Brazil, ironically,Caetano was totally unaware of his success being completely abandoned in jail by the hands of an awkward Brazilian military regime ( he had a large number of fans and almost no one would dream he was in jail). Caetano was a genuine middle class guy and the text of his book evidences he had no strings to any terrorist scheme. It seems his “mistake” maybe was that he opened his heart too...
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